The Society of Malawi Doctors (SMD) has demanded a special review of the drug procurement system which it claims is responsible for the endless drug crises that have hit the country.
The doctors’ call follows a recent tug-of-war between district health officers (DHOs) on one hand and Treasury and Ministry of Health officials on the other, on who is responsible for the acute shortage of drugs in public hospitals.
Speaking on the sideline of the fifth Annual Medical Conference organised by SMD in Mangochi on Friday, the society’s president Douglas Lungu challenged government to get to the bottom of the drug crisis and decaying service delivery in public hospitals.
Said Lungu: “The drugs being stolen from hospitals by medical staff are stolen through illegal prescriptions. Such prescriptions only involve a handful of drugs. On the other hand, fraudulent procurement deals mean drugs in lorries and trucks do not show up in hospitals and this is the aspect of pilferages we should be concerned more about,” said Lungu.
He said it was interesting to note that procurement systems for antiretroviral therapy (ARTs) for HIV patients are not falling prey to the abuse, yet other essential drugs are prone to pilferage.
Lungu blamed the apparent disconnect between central government and doctors working in public hospitals for woes the country’s health sector is facing.
“We need to see more decentralisation in the health sector whereby DHOs are involved in the planning,” said Lungu.
However, in an interview, Ministry of Health’s chief of health services Dr Charles Mwansambo while admitting the existing communication gaps between the ministry and doctors in the past, said the ministry is constantly engaging doctors and other stakeholders in dialogue.
“We used to meet twice annually, but we are now meeting more regularly because we value the input of all health stakeholders. There are many challenges, but we need together to find the solutions,” said Mwansambo.
Speaking earlier at the conference, Mwansambo challenged the medical practitioners to come up with leadership skills that will tackle health challenges the country faces.
The country’s public hospitals were recently hit by drug shortages which were further compounded by funding woes, but the challenge is perennial with several years registering depletion of drug stock in hospitals at some point.
DHOs recently told Parliament’s Health Committee that budget ceilings for procurement of drugs were not communicated to them while the Ministry of Health noted that there were challenges in the supply chain system which needed to be sorted out.